Doing the small stuff right first

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?”  Luke 16:10-12

Victor Davis Hanson notes the all-too-familiar scene of elected leaders pontificating about speculative global matters while failing utterly to address the needs of those closer to home, who put them in office in the first place:

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg used to offer all sorts of cosmic advice on the evils of smoking and the dangers of fatty foods and sugary soft drinks.  Bloomberg also frequently pontificated on abortion and global warming, earning him a progressive audience that transcended the boroughs of New York.

But in the near-record December 2010 blizzard, Bloomberg proved utterly incompetent in the elemental tasks for which he was elected: ensuring that New Yorkers were not trapped in their homes by snowdrifts in their streets that went unplowed for days.

The Bloomberg syndrome is a characteristic of contemporary government officials.  When they are unwilling or unable to address pre-modern problems in their jurisdictions – crime, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate transportation – they compensate by posing as philosopher kings who cheaply lecture on existential challenges over which they have no control.  …

We have become an arrogant generation that virtue-signals that we can change the universe when in reality we cannot even run an awards ceremony, plow snow, fix potholes, build a road or dam, or stop inner-city youths from murdering one another.

Governors who cannot build a reservoir have little business fantasizing about 200-mph super trains.

It’s said that “all politics is local.”  The failure of our self-righteous ruling class to address some very basic responsibilities is one of the main factors propelling the rise of the likes of Trump.  There are encouraging signs, however, that some in our capitols are listening to the rising anger; for instance, the call by 10 U.S. Senators and a number of Representatives to curtail or forego the standard Congressional recess in August in order to get some actual work done.

What a concept…

Note to the GOP leadership: it’s not gone unnoticed that you’ve spent more time fighting the president than trying to enable the agenda that got him elected.  You may think you’re blocking a fluke presidency.  In reality, if you stymie Trump you’re going to like what comes next even worse.  In martial arts I was taught to use three escalating approaches to stop a threat: “nice” (evasion and warning), “not-so nice” (evasion and inflicting a “stinger”), and “nasty,” involving serious physical injury to the assailant when all other options had failed and the threat had become critical enough to justify serious violence.  The Tea Party was “nice” and civil; they were unfairly demonized and marginalized.  Trump is the “not-so-nice” second attempt to get the government’s attention.  God help us all if we arrive at “nasty.”

If a Congress cannot pass a balanced budget on time, or a Mayor cannot deal with large-scale violence in their city, or a State legislature cannot pass a budget at all, then these people have no business occupying their current positions, much less running for higher office.  (And I repeat: running for an office should require the candidate not currently hold an elective office, since modern campaigning inevitably results in shortchanging current duties.) We, the people, need to stop looking at the seniority and patronage of our individual representatives, and hold them collectively responsible for our nation’s current woes.  In fact, we need to borrow a phrase from The Donald himself:

You’re fired!”

Poverty and the “success sequence”

George Will examines how failing to follow the “success sequence” often leads to devastating poverty:

The success sequence, previously suggested in research by, among others, Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, is this: First get at least a high-school diploma, then get a job, then get married, and only then have children. Wang and Wilcox, focusing on Millennials ages 28 to 34, the oldest members of the nation’s largest generation, have found that only 3 percent who follow this sequence are poor. …

One problem today, Wilcox says, is the “soul-mate model of marriage,” a self-centered approach that regards marriage primarily as an opportunity for personal growth and fulfillment rather than as a way to form a family. Another problem is that some of the intelligentsia see the success sequence as middle-class norms to be disparaged for being middle-class norms. And as AEI social scientist Charles Murray says, too many of the successful classes, who followed the success sequence, do not preach what they practice, preferring “ecumenical niceness” to being judgmental.

In healthy societies, basic values and social arrangements are not much thought about. They are “of course” matters expressing what sociologists call a society’s “world-taken-for-granted.” They have, however, changed since President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed “unconditional” war on poverty. This word suggested a fallacious assumption: Poverty persisted only because of hitherto weak government resolve regarding the essence of war — marshalling material resources. But what if large causes of poverty are not matters of material distribution but are behavioral — bad choices and the cultures that produce them? If so, policymakers must rethink their confidence in social salvation through economic abundance.

Reversing social regression using public policies to create a healthy culture is akin to “nation-building” abroad, an American undertaking not recently crowned with success.

As Will points out, those who want to escape poverty need mentoring at least as much as they do resources.  Knowing what the norms are higher on the socio-economic ladder is essential to making progress.  Such mentoring should occur naturally in two-parent families.

But those seem to be an endangered species in the United States.

Starting a slide?

My family has attended Southern Baptist churches our entire marriage (25 years next month), and I’ve frequently taught adult Bible study on Sunday mornings.

It now appears I will frequently have to point out how the translation favored in the study literature is no longer faithful to a literal translation of the ancient text.

The (Christian Standard Bible) now translates the term anthropos, a Greek word for “man,” in a gender-neutral form 151 times, rendering it “human,” “people,” and “ones.” The previous edition ((Holman Christian Standard Bible)) had done this on occasion; the new revision adds almost 100 more instances. “Men of Israel” becomes “fellow Israelites;” when discussing Jesus’s incarnation the “likeness of men” becomes “likeness of humanity.” The CSB translates the term adelphoi, a Greek word for “brother” in a gender-neutral form 106 times, often adding “sister.” “Brotherly love” is translated “love as brothers and sisters.”

The gender-neutralizing pattern is also present in its translation of the Old Testament…

The SBC is America’s largest Protestant denomination and one of its most conservative. If its leaders and members are tolerating a softer, more inclusive approach to gender, it might be a bellwether of things to come in the culture war over gender.

When the SBC was more about discipleship than it was about being “seeker friendly” (in other words, before Rick Warren), it took the time to teach scripture in the context of its era in history.  Yes, the past was largely male-dominated in terms of language; get over it.  That very fact showcases how Christianity, far from subjugating women, actually improved their status within Christian fellowship and eventually within society as a whole.

That will no longer be so apparent with the “new” translation.  I didn’t like it when SBC literature switched to the Holman Christian Standard version; now they’ve tipped their full hand with the revised in-house CSV.  Modifying scripture to conform to modern sensibilities is not a good sign.  We are told to call on God as “Father,” not as “Parent.”  I’m sure the CSV hasn’t changed that yet, but if it’s changing anything at all it’s only a matter of time.

A church either worships the God who created us in His image, or worships a god made in our image.  When a denomination starts to resemble the world in small ways, it’s usually not long before they start to resemble it in large ways.  The SBC already split once over this kind of thing.  Now it appears that the conservative side is no longer conserving as much.  .

I’ll continue with my English Standard Version and my wife’s parallel Bible — and now I’ll be watching my own denomination and its teachings very closely.  This may easily be a turn down a disastrous road.  If that becomes the case, my family will find an off-ramp to a fellowship that is “rightly handling the word of truth.”

We should seem odd

Apparently, it’s now scandalous to be careful about avoiding even the appearance of impropriety:

Recently, a Washington Post article about second lady Karen Pence has brought the Billy Graham Rule back into the public eye. The article cites a 2002 interview with Vice President Pence — who has called himself an “evangelical Catholic” — saying that he “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife,” and that he doesn’t attend events serving alcohol unless she is with him as well. This will, no doubt, sound strange to the uninitiated. The Onion parodied the story with the headline, “Mike Pence Asks Waiter To Remove Mrs. Butterworth From Table Until Wife Arrives.” It is strange, as are many religious practices, and strange isn’t necessarily bad.

The impulse that led to the Billy Graham Rule — which was actually a solidification of principles guarding against several kinds of temptation — is a good and honorable one: to remain faithful to one’s spouse and to avoid the kind of behavior (or rumors of behavior) that have destroyed the careers of church leaders.

So far, so good – the author of the article appears to understand the motivation.  Then there’s the “but:”

…for men to categorically refuse to meet one-on-one with women is often dehumanizing and denies the image of Christ that each person bears.

The rule also promotes the preservation of men and exclusion of women in positions of leadership. If a woman at work cannot meet one-on-one with her boss or colleague, her options for advancement (or even being taken seriously as a colleague) are extremely limited.

The Billy Graham Rule also denies the reality of LGBT people. As a friend pointed out to me: Should a bisexual person refuse to ever be alone with anyone, full stop? Should a male pastor refuse to meet one-on-one with a gay man?…

Several female pastors I spoke with told me that they wouldn’t have a job if they abided by this rule because meeting one-on-one with men is part of what they have to do within their congregation.

There’s a lot to unpack here.  First of all, I tip my hat to Mike Pence for being so consistent about this that it draws attention.  But while the author makes a stab at seeming understanding, her real purpose is to taint the practice as somehow harmful and “unfair” (a favorite word on the Left).

As the author points out, the Christian belief system assumes “heteronormativity, furthering the idea that people who are LGBT are people “out there,” not an essential part of the church.”  Well, yes.  Continue reading

The “niceness” handicap

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this article is very much worth your attention:

I have long observed that an alarming swath of public evangelicals seems to be driven by a consuming desire to be liked by the world. ((note: link added to excerpt by me))

Now, that is my characterization, not theirs. To their minds, they are trying to be good representatives of Jesus. They are focusing on “kingdom” issues. They eschew evangelicalism’s past mistakes of tying itself to various moralistic fads such as outlawing alcohol or opposing nylons and lipstick. They want to be sure that unbelievers know that they love them, that the GOP is not the Kingdom of God. They want to be seen as scholarly, cautious, nuanced, careful, measured, and helpful. They shrink from the thought of being seen as dogmatic, triumphalistic, or narrow.

Are those bad motivations? As stated and as far as they go, most of them are not.

However, I’ve come to fear that they mask fatal flaws. For starters,  these sorts are willing to let their motivations be judged and dictated by the reactions of unbelievers…

I can’t say it any better.  Read the whole thing here.

Where have all the Christians gone?

This is a lengthy excerpt.  I recommend you read the entire piece here.

A generation ago pop star Bonnie Tyler famously asked: “Where have all the good men gone?”

Since then, the situation has only gotten worse, Bonnie.  As C.S. Lewis noted, men in the English-speaking world have largely been emasculated, and men in the Church are seldom an exception to this decades-long trend.

To stand strong for one’s faith in Jesus Christ and push back against a culture that, in the words of Isaiah 5:20, “call[s] evil good and good evil” is to be “divisive,” “unloving,” “bigoted,” and “intolerant.”

This is because evangelicals have confused Christ’s command to love others with being likable, as if that were an attribute of God. (It isn’t.)  As such, they endeavor to be, above all else, inoffensive and polite.  This doctrinal malpractice has given us a generation of men who are what Lewis called “men without chests.”  …

I urge you instead to be offended by the way our God’s name is blasphemed in our country every day; by the 54 million children murdered in the holocaust of abortion since 1973; by the sordid sexual agenda that is eroding the very fabric of Western civilization; by the fact that Christians are dying for their faith, largely at the hands of Muslims, at a rate of 100,000 per year; and, most of all, by the reality that these things are being ignored, trivialized, or celebrated.  These are things that offend me deeply, and I hope they offend you, too.  Righteous anger has a place within the Christian life.  Tap into it.  In the words of Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin.”   …

Evangelical Christians comprise a hefty 26 percent of the U.S. population. I fully believe that if they were to find their voices, their courage, and were to dispense with candy-assed Christianity, that we would see a Great Awakening in America.

Agreed.  Christ himself on several occasions was contemptuous with the authorities of the day, and felt no need to be “nice” to the those who wore the trappings but denied the Truth.  The Church should worry less about getting along with the world, and more about challenging that world, whatever the cost.  We need Paul’s persistence, not Osteen’s opulence.

Well… who’da thunk?

Note: this is a lengthy post in part because I’m refuting secularists who misuse scripture to justify the ongoing invasion of the West.  If you arrived on this site’s main page be sure to click on “Continue reading” below.

Both a judge in Washington and an appeals panel of the 9th Circus Circuit Court of Appeals have stayed President Trump’s executive order banning entry to the country by people from seven nations considered to be high risk (incidentally, it was Obama who first flagged these nations as problematic).  Both courts claimed there was no evidence to support such a ban.

Truth is, they just didn’t look for any.  After all, pesky facts would get in the way of their legislating AND presiding from the bench:

A review of information compiled by a Senate committee in 2016 reveals that 72 individuals from the seven countries covered in President Trump’s vetting executive order have been convicted in terror cases since the 9/11 attacks. These facts stand in stark contrast to the assertions by the Ninth Circuit judges who have blocked the president’s order on the basis that there is no evidence showing a risk to the United States in allowing aliens from these seven terror-associated countries to come in.

Let me repeat that: 72 people from the countries on Trump’s list arrived in the United States since 9/11, and were later convicted of terror-related actions.

This is why I can’t stand the Transportation Security Agency — it’s security theater, not real security.  Real security comes from keeping terrorists out of the country, not from harassing citizens at airports.

This is why I can’t stand the open borders crowd.  Either we are a sovereign nation or we’re not.  Sovereign nations have every right to control who is allowed to enter and under what circumstances.

Continue reading